Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Yesterday morning at about 7:15 am (EST), I was on the phone with Dorothy King of CBC radio in Corner Brook. She was speaking with me and Corner Brook artist/resident, Shawn O'Hagan, about The Knitted Mile project. Due largely to Shawn's efforts, the project has about 20 knitters in Corner Brook sitting at the ready to take up needles for the cause. (Side note to the greater powers including, but not limited to, the Canada Post: please let the yarn arrive today!!!!)

Dorothy gave us an opportunity to describe the project and let people know what the basic instructions were, and Shawn gave out her phone number on the air so people who wanted to knit could give her a call. Within a couple of minutes after hanging up, I received an email from Shawn telling me she had heard from a elderly woman in Port Saunders (a town on the Northern Penninsula) and that Dorothy had committed to a knitting up a skein. Several others also called her over the course of the day.

May I digress here a bit to mention that people in NYC frequently talk about real estate and quality of life. Being an artist, I tend to hang out with an artsy crowd, which means mostly people who do not have lots of extra cash floating around. The cost of living in NYC is very high, especially the real estate part, and people are always talking about moving out of the city to a place that is more affordable. The catch often seems to come when people start to imagine what kind of neighbors they might have--would they be conservative (socially and/or politically), would they frown on alternative lifestyles, etc. I hear a kind of us vs. them mentality, although most of the people making these observations or predictions are not cruel or narrow minded or snotty as a rule. It's just that, when you live in NYC, the rest of the country (and that includes Westchester) can seem like "the other." I mean, those 26% of Americans who still support George W. Bush live somewhere, right? Despite that fleeting moment on 9/11 when we were all New Yorkers, the fact is that New York City is not the rest of the country. Things are different here.

So, let's just say that, more than once, I have had a conversation about moving out of the city where the other person says, "I worry about having other people I can talk to." I am not saying this is right thinking, I am just saying that I have had these conversations.

May I digress further and mention that, while working on projects past that have included large amounts of knitting, I have received several comments from people (in NYC!!) along the lines that I should be knitting for a more useful cause. For one project where I knit miniature baby sweaters as part of a piece for a health care clinic, one person said I should be knitting real sweaters for real children who are homeless. For another that consisted of granny square blankets for light and sign posts on Canal Street in Manhattan, a woman complained that all that energy and effort would be wasted when I (or "we" since I had some dedicated granny square makers working with me--cough, cough, Patti, cough, cough) could be making blankets for the elderly, etc. etc. The notion that this kind of handiwork would go toward making an art work that had no obvious social funtion was irritating to those people who commented. It really bothered them. Yet, I suspect, that most painters rarely hear comments about how they could be using their skills to paint houses for Habit for Humanity.

I guess NYC doesn't have the market cornered on enlightenment after all.

To bring us back to Corner Brook, Dorothy King and knitting...my experience in Newfoundland has not been what my friends fear when they talk of leaving the city. Yes, it is a rural place. It is even quite conservative in a way. But I find that even people who are very conservative are open minded enough to allow others to live as they like to live. They might not ever live that way, but they won't interfere if that is your choice. And as for finding people I can talk to...well...this is not a problem in Newfoundland. But it thrills me even more that people heard what Shawn and I said on the radio and decided that they wanted to participate. Perhaps some people thought it was total horsesh*t and a gigantic waste of time, but some people went ahead and made a phone call to a total stranger so they could join in the process. And as I think of it, not just any process but one instigated by a part-time CFA for a project that will take place in Dallas, Texas, of all places.

I am full of love for my adopted home!


island sweet said...

and.. gertrude from port saunders was at a meeting last night and told her group about the project and 5 more women from there have signed on. i got a call this morning from florence plowman who said that she didn't really understand gertrude's explanation of the project so could i explain it. when i did there was no questioning. i need to send them 12 balls of yarn when it arrives...

Patti Blaine said...

How wonderful, Robyn!

I was showing Peg the Canal St. afghan that's pinned to the living room wall, and the unofficial book of photos I collected of that whole project. It moves me to tears still. Lower Manhattan needed warmth (god it was cold that February) and to be embraced. Remember people's faces, the wonder at what you were doing as you wrapped those poles? I think what you did was right and fitting, no question. People who missed the point, didn't take the time to look and see and understand.

I consider it one of the greatest privileges of my life to have been a part of it. Thank YOU!